Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Zimbabwe has enough grain reserves to feed the nation for nine months, the Secretary for Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Mr Ringson Chitsiko, has said.
He was briefing the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Peace and Security on Friday on the food security situation in the country. Mr Chitsiko was accompanied by Agritex principal director Mr Joseph Gondo and Grain Marketing Board operations manager Mr Felton Kamambo.
The committee is chaired by former Health Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa.
Mr Chitsiko said as at December 3, the country’s maize stocks stood at 1 179 756 and small grains amounted to 135 935 tonnes. The country also had 119 794 tonnes of wheat as of Thursday.
“For the past two seasons, Zimbabwe has not imported any major grains such as maize. We have 1 179 156 tonnes of maize, which is twice our mandatory Strategic Grain Reserve of 500 000 tonnes. The nation is comfortable since the surplus is enough to see us through nine months. This means the supply of the staple diet in the country is out of danger,” Mr Chitsiko told the parliamentary committee.
“It is important that if we do not work around the El Nino-induced drought, the glory can vanish. We are working on measures to adapt to the potential effects of El Nino,” he said.
Mr Chitsiko said the El Nino phenomenon was usually associated with prolonged droughts or mid-season droughts and floods but in Zimbabwe past El Nino seasons have led to droughts that have resulted in crop failure, livestock and wildlife deaths.
He said the country usually experiences a good season once in every four to five years.
“We have been providing farmers with drought tolerant crops such as small grains, short and medium season varieties of maize, and our scientists have also ben breeding heat-tolerant crops.
“We are also working on irrigation rehabilitation, development and expansion. We wanted to ensure that we develop 200 hectares of irrigation per every district although this intervention has been affected by shortage of funds,” said Mr Chitsiko.
“We have an early warning information system and drought monitoring.
Agritex fortnightly reports will help us track the season so that the country is forewarned in the event of any danger,” he said.
He urged livestock farmers to harvest and store forage, particularly in areas where there is decent vegetation.
“There is need for farmers to do water harvesting, and also embrace insurance for crops and livestock,” he said.
For his part, Mr Gondo said the ministry was also promoting safe handling of produce to reduce post-harvest losses. He said they were promoting the use of metal silos and had established demonstration sites in different rural areas.
“We have also trained artisans to build the (metal) silos. We are also promoting hermetically sealed bags as pests cannot survive under such conditions. For the past two seasons, we had challenges with the fall armyworm and we want to protect the current crop from pests. Farmers should increase scouting for early detection of pests before they cause havoc,” he said.
Mr Kamambo said the GMB was distributing grain to all provinces for easy access by the people facing deficits.
He said while the country was food secure, there was need to ensure it was also nutrition-secure.
“We need to know what measures you have put in place to ensure we have food and nutrition security,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
Mr Chitsiko said more needed to be done on nutrition but Government had included pulses under the inputs programmes to promote nutrition.
The legislators advised the ministry to ensure maize was distributed fairly in the deficit areas and that responsible authorities did not exploit the poor by charging exorbitantly for transport.